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ULA’a Atlas-5 successfully launches the Lucy asteroid probe

ULA’a Atlas-5 rocket early this morning successfully launched the Lucy asteroid probe on a 12 year mission to study eight Trojan asteroids over a period from 2025 to 2031. One tidbit about the mission is especially creative:

Scientists named the Lucy mission after the fossilized remains of a human ancestor, called Lucy by the scientists who discovered her in Ethiopia in 1974.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

36 China
23 SpaceX
17 Russia
4 Northrop Grumman
4 ULA

The U.S. and China are once again tied in the national rankings, at 36 each.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 

The print edition can be purchased at Amazon. Or you can buy it directly from the author and get an autographed copy.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

10 comments

  • Jeff Wright

    I’m hoping SLS is the last launch of the year and it puts us on top.

  • Andrew_W

    Or was the spacecraft actually named after the 1967 Beetles song “Lucy in the sky with diamonds”, which I think would make more sense.

  • Dave Walden

    One of the attributes of Bob’s wonderful site that I have come to appreciate over the years – and it is but ONE of MANY that are far more consequential, is the outstanding sense of humor frequently displayed by its readers!

    The latest example from “Andrew_W,” will be picked-up by a stand-up!

  • Col Beausabre

    The fossil was named for the song

    “Lucy” acquired her name from the 1967 song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles, which was played loudly and repeatedly in the expedition camp all evening after the excavation team’s first day of work on the recovery site.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(Australopithecus)

    To quote Ronnie Van Zant “TURN IT UP!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naoknj1ebqI

  • James Street

    “China tests new space capability with hypersonic missile

    China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August that circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise.

    Five people familiar with the test said the Chinese military launched a rocket that carried a hypersonic glide vehicle which flew through low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target.

    The missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles, according to three people briefed on the intelligence. But two said the test showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US officials realised.

    The test has raised new questions about why the US often underestimated China’s military modernisation.

    “We have no idea how they did this,” said a fourth person.”
    https://www.ft.com/content/ba0a3cde-719b-4040-93cb-a486e1f843fb

    The article is behind the Financial Times paywall.

    Meanwhile China is using their hired help in the U.S. government to destroy our military. Think CRT indoctrination, forced vaccinations, General Milley’s advanced warning to them of a U.S. attack, etc…

  • Mark

    Hey Dave – I think Andrew was onto something. See if you can follow my logic tree.

    So how does a song released in 1967 and initially banned by the BBC for its supposed drug references relate to a potentially amazing NASA mission that we have to wait 6 more years to get started on its core science observations?

    Bob wrote a parsimonious post recording the ULA launch but he did leave us clues to follow like a writer of the old TV series Colombo.
    Bob tells us that the Lucy NASA mission was named “after the fossilized remains of a human ancestor, called Lucy by the scientists who discovered her”.

    And why would they do this?
    Bob leaves us hanging, but I’ll try to sketch out a potential answer.
    In 1974, the world of science was amazed by the discovery of a 3.2 million-year-old fossil of a female skeleton that changed our understanding of human origins. Lucy showed that human ancestors were up and walking around long before the earliest stone tools were made or brains got bigger.

    NASA’s Lucy is a Discovery class mission to Trojan asteroids. These asteroids share the orbit of the planet Jupiter around the Sun. Viewed from a coordinate system that is fixed on Jupiter, they appear to orbit one of the two Lagrangian points of stability, L 4 and L 5, that lie 60° ahead of and behind Jupiter in its orbit.

    The study of Trojans could reveal the “fossils of planet formation” which are materials that clumped together in the early history of the Solar System. For the science instrument geeks out there, the Lucy mission has a panchromatic and color visible imager, a high-resolution visible imager, and a thermal infrared spectrometer (range 6-75 μm).

    With that background, it’s understandable that this mission is named ‘Lucy’ because Planetary Scientists hope that this mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids will provide clues to the origin of our solar system.

    Going down the rabbit hole of this post further, who was this ‘Lucy’ the Human Paleontologists in 1974 were referring to?
    It wasn’t a real person but rather was a reference to the song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ (mostly) written by John Lennon.
    And one could say that the ‘Lucy’ skeleton was a shining star in the world of paleoanthropology.
    So that’s the answer to the question that opened this post.

    But since questions are in the end more interesting than answers, I’ll leave you with one last question.
    How is all this related to two of the most popular works of fiction written as children’s books in the mid 19th century, and that are in some universities recommended reading for today’s computer programmers?

  • mpthompson

    Or was the spacecraft actually named after the 1967 Beetles song “Lucy in the sky with diamonds”, which I think would make more sense.

    Yeah, that could make more sense as the spacecraft does have a sensor with an artificial diamond component within it according to a Scott Manley video.

  • Edward

    mpthompson’s referenced Scott Manley video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbwSSdtWUNE (15 minutes)

  • Jeff Wright

    The ice giants may be a source of diamonds..one got knocked over..and so those coal dark ring sections might just have some surprises.

  • Andrew_W

    Col Beausabre
    “The fossil was named for the song”.

    Yep, my first year of high school was in ’76, the teacher mentioned the relationship between the fossil and the song, though she got the story backwards. It’s certain those that selected the name Lucy are also well aware of the relationship, which is why I suspect the emphasis being placed on the fossils side of the name might be deliberately telling only half the story.

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